Martin Stephenson and the Daintees are a British rock/folk/pop band combining elements of rockabilly, show tunes, rootsy pop, straight-ahead rock and punk. The band is fronted by songwriter/guitarist Martin Stephenson, signing with Kitchenware Records and releasing their first single in 1982.
Their best-selling and most acclaimed album Boat To Bolivia was released in 1986 and was produced by a young Gil Norton, who shortly after went on to produce The Pixies. This tour will see the band play that album in its entirety along with a selection of songs form their back catalogue, including tracks from Gladsome, Humour & Blue from 1988, Salutation Road from 1990 and The Boy’s Heart from 1992. “Simon Moran, who works for SJM national promotions company, at the end of last year he walked into one of my gigs and I hadn’t seen him for 20 years and he wanted to promote a tour with The Daintees.”
Although the Daintees split in 1992, they reformed in 2000 and have been playing the odd gig ever since, while Martin Stephenson has forged a career as a solo artist, releasing numerous albums and developing a love for folk roots music. For the most part a self-contained and independent musician with his own label, Stephenson has made a series of mail-order only acoustic projects. “It’s been a strange trip – I’ve converted my ambition to a more spiritual range – creativity and hard working rather than being famous. The rewards can be much better, not just material rewards…” he says from his base in the Highlands off Scotland where he has been for 17 years, initially moving there to kill off his liking for booze… “I’ve been sober that long; I thought I would kill myself with the drink…”
Upon Boat To Bolivia’s release the NME said it, ‘…builds bridges between love and hate, between cradle and grave, between folk and pop, between the past and present’. Stephenson says: “I didn’t have a clue what I was doing – I kinda got a job as the songwriter, and they said ‘you gotta do it’, so I started writing about my family, and things that were happening to us at the time.
“It was new, and exciting and fresh then. When we finished Gil had a tape of the next band he was working on and he played it to us and I said, ‘Oh dear, that’s like John Peel ten years ago’, and I told him not to do it and he phoned up a couple years later and said, ‘I’ll never listen to you’! and said that was The Pixies and it’s just gone platinum…. I saw him about three years ago at a gig I was playing and I was telling people ‘you see that bloke there, I told him not to produce The Pixies and he wouldn’t listen’!
“People noticed that we had a lot of different musical styles and the reason this happened was that I was trying to learn guitar… I would get a classical book and I would get a song from an exercise book… I remember doing a gig with the Go-Betweens and Grant McLennan (the frontman for the band) in ’84 and during the soundcheck he said, ‘that’s exercise number 24′ – it was really funny, he spotted it from a jazz guitar book!”
But Martin wasn’t cut out for the pressures and demands of the mainstream industry: “You might think this is nuts, but we would have all these meetings, we would have stuff in NME, the single was creeping up the charts, and at these meetings there would be panic if the single started going down… we weren’t really into promoting ourselves, but what we were into was playing live.”
Reaching a high of 39 in the album charts for second album Gladsome, Humour & Blue, the fortunes of the band declined, and they were dropped by their label after The Boy’s Heart. “The third album budget was £140k and that was complete nuts, I hated it,” says Martin. “When I got away from all that, I did the complete opposite: I did an album at home and I had my own mailing list, and I would sell all the copies in a week and a half and that would manifest enough money to pay the musicians personally. I put every CD in the bag – it was a cosmic experience; I was in touch with every part of the process…
For the tour original member John Steel will be with the band, someone who disappeared from Martin’s life back in ’86. “He was my manager’s cousin, but all of a sudden he disappeared after our John Martyn tour. He went to work for the BBC, editing Match of the Day and stuff like that, and I never saw him for 25 years, but I reconnected with him eight years ago.”
Also joining Martin on tour is Helen McCookerybook, who resided for a time in Brighton, including singing and playing bass with local legends The Chefs. “We were very influenced by The Chefs,” says Martin. We met just after we both got divorced and we did a gig together. To me she’s a national treasure.”
On tour in the UK